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Be more cutting than the cutting edge of technology… circa 1870 or so

There’s just something inherently cool about something that comes across as both futuristic and antique, and if you’ve exposed your kids to early and classic sci-fi, they probably think it’s pretty cool too. It’s 19th century style, but with a heavy emphasis on the technology of the time, i.e. steam and spring-powered gadgets. Basically, the look you’re going for is classy, old timey inventor-adventurer. If someone asks what you are, you say you’re steampunk and they’re confused, tell them you’re a classy inventor-adventurer. If they’re still confused, say you’re Phileas Fogg (minus the hot air balloon, plus more gadgets) from Around the World in 80 Days or H.G. Wells’ time traveller.

Defining features: gadgets, gears, leather, bronze, Victorian flare

You’ll need:

  • basic white oxford shirt
  • vest (and/or suit jacket)
  • goggles or a monocle
  • a watch or two
  • a long dress or skirt OR slacks, rolled up like our pal Tintin (Perhaps one of Mom’s knee-length skirts is full length on a smaller person)
  • a gadget or two (we recommend a retro high-tech umbrella, anachronistic Victorian flashlight, old timey binoculars, or if you must, a blaster of some sort)
  • leather bracelets/armbands
  • high boots (if you have them)
  • nuts, bolts, cogs, anything old-tech-looking that you could glue/sew onto other stuff
  • brass fasteners


  • leather gloves
  • necktie
  • top hat or bowler
  • Victorian mustaches
  • big Victorian hair (if your steampunk has long hair)

Yes, we know there’s a lot of stuff on that list and in that picture, but you don’t need to concern yourself with all of it. You want to start with a Victorian-ish costume. If you can’t find proper pants and your kid can’t bear to wear that long heavy skirt, just get a few Victorian elements in, substitute the rest with what the kid feels comfortable in, and say it’s anachronistic. Your son’s brown cargo pants might be perfect for this costume.

OK, you got a top and a bottom for your classy inventor/adventurer? Great, now on to the accessories. You need the goggles. They’re key. You may skip the goggles if you have some other brilliant idea for a steampunk helmet or your kid is going retro cyborg. If anyone in the family has welding goggles, these will work great. You can make a run to the Value Villages and other primo costume venues and see what you could buy, or you could follow one of the brilliant internet goggle tutorials. Your best bet might be to play around with a old pair of swimming goggles — You could colour the lenses with the plastic from an empty gingerale bottle, add some brass fasteners and sacrifice the strap from an old purse, belt, or leather glove that lost its mate.

If you and your kid are into this idea, please, please share pictures!

Photo by ewen and donabel via Flickr

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